The purpose of this paper is to explore the use of community question answering sites (CQAs) on the topic of terrorism. Three research questions are investigated: what are the dominant themes reflected in terrorism-related questions? How do answer characteristics vary with question themes? How does users’ anonymity relate to question themes and answer characteristics?
Data include 300 questions that attracted 2,194 answers on the community question answering Yahoo! Answers. Content analysis was employed.
The questions reflected the community’s information needs ranging from the life of extremists to counter-terrorism policies. Answers were laden with negative emotions reflecting hate speech and Islamophobia, making claims that were rarely verifiable. Users who posted sensitive content generally remained anonymous.
This paper raises awareness of how CQAs are used to exchange information about sensitive topics such as terrorism. It calls for governments and law enforcement agencies to collaborate with major social media companies to develop a process for cross-platform blacklisting of users and content, as well as identifying those who are vulnerable.
Theoretically, it contributes to the academic discourse on terrorism in CQAs by exploring the type of questions asked, and the sort of answers they attract. Methodologically, the paper serves to enrich the literature around terrorism and social media that has hitherto mostly drawn data from Facebook and Twitter.